January 26, 2010

Quick & Dirty: Is 2010 The Year KM Grows Up?

You know, the joy of these 'Quick & Dirty' posts is supposed to be the speed with which I can drop some knowledge and get back to other things, but on days like this...grrrrr!

(Re-filling my sweet iced tea...aaaahhhh, all better now.)

It is truly amazing to me how the most unexpected situations can teach us so much about who we are and what we're capable of. I've been navigating the murky waters of family (melo)drama lately (in my capacity as middle child and official "damn-giver...er" and something I said today resonated with recent thoughts I've been journaling regarding the State of KM in 2010 and my own personal goals for the year as a practitioner.

First, lemme just say that you know you're a tennis fan when you stay up all night (and I mean ALL night...in the middle of the week) to watch the Australian Open. Damn that Roddick for costing me $5! Just when I thought he'd changed his losing ways...!

Anyway, I'd been working on catching up on my blog-reading and getting a feel for the current state of KM with my regular review of newly posted KM jobs (and, btw, there are some interesting opportunities for those of you in the market; clearly a sign that there's continuous recognition of the need for KM. It's also pretty cool to see the number of references for KM skills in non-KM titled jobs, particularly in project management roles) when I came across this position description that I'd like to acquire (well, most of it, at least) by the end of 2010 to give me my dream resume.

Thinking about the ways in which I hope to grow had me thinking about the ways in which I've already grown (that's what resonated). And, in typical Christian-fashion, this had me thinking about The Pussycat Dolls.

Yes, my brain actually works like this; it's a thin line between brilliant and crazy...a thin, scary line.

I've been re-building my music library following The Great HD Crash of '09 (which followed the '08 Crash much too quickly; and it didn't help that I responded to the first one like FEMA during Katrina). Heart failure and a hard-drive crash in the same year?!?! I am such a survior. I deserve a Symphony candy bar (the one with the toffee, mmmmh).

I was bananas for PCDs "When I Grow Up" when it blew up the charts in '08 and while re-stocking my media library, I came across a sick Lil Wayne/P Diddy remix that I just canNOT stop listening to! (Sorry, scrambling back across the line). Anywho, all of this talking and singing about growth and growing up had me thinking about the need for knowledge management and Knowledge Managers to experience some of their own in 2010 (growth, that is...maybe a little singing too).

For KM (the people) that can mean either growin' a pair (and droppin' 'em) or simply empowering yourself to be the expert you know you are (or would like to be; I get that, depending upon your situation and organization, it ain't always simple...just work with me). Now, I'm not calling anyone spineless or pushing an aggressive, bad-ass, Sam-Jackson-in-Pulp-Fiction approach to KM, I'm just saying that in championing KM and generating ongoing support it's important to know when to be assertive and aggressive versus collaborative and accomodating. (Even though a Knowledge Manager should embody all of these qualities.) Like the song says, "know when to hold 'em/know when to fold 'em/know when to walk away/know when to run".

I also recognize that some organizations staff their KM roles with the intention of creating change in accordance with the perception(s) of whomever pitched the idea of KM in the first place (and to whom you probably report) but, to be an effective Knowledge Manager, you be must capable of evaluating the organization yourself and creating awareness of the true State of KM (versus the often blurred, less than objective renderings of others) and re-set expectations accordingly. Your success, in this regard, will speak highly of your abilities as an educator and communicator (and, if you're serious about your career in KM, it gives you an idea of how much the organizational climate will support or hinder your growth and development). Again, I know your yoke ain't easy and your burthen ain't light, but being good at what you do means constantly pushing yourself to be better.

For KM (the field) growing up means being relevant and providing a solid value proposition. Gone are the days of the wordy-but-empty KM sales pitch where KM is a "critical necessity" whose ethereal, far-reaching benefits are many, yet hard to quantify. The flavor's in the fat, but the meat is what we eat. Over the years, I've observed a lot of folks who cling to fast and loose definitions of KM that, essentially, leave the concept open to much interpretation (and bastardization). While this might appease theorists with a penchant for defying labels, it makes our field look flakey and disorganized. From my perspective, if everything is KM, then what's the point of KM?

At close to 4am, it's waaaay to early for me to try and explain what (I think) KM is and isn't (especially in a Quick & Dirty post) beyond my usual description, but if I were to say a few words on the subject (as if a blogger is looking to keep their thoughts to themselves) to those folks who are either exploring what KM can do for their organization or went about executing a KM strategy without seeking expert counsel, I might say that you don't need a KM strategy to:
  • Build a website or a database - hire a techie;
  • Re-organize your filing system - get an intern;
  • Get your employees to document their work-related activities and/or critical reflections - put it in their MBOs and tie it to their bonuses; or even,
  • To get your employees sharing information with one another - an open-bar Happy Hour with chicken wings gets the job done juuuust fine.
Ultimately, the bottom-line goal of a KM strategy is to help organizations improve their market share and profitability. This is accomplished by getting at and coming up with ways to leverage critical knowledge. If, as a consquence of this activity, you happen to make some people happy by improving some processes and general working conditions...fuckin' 'A' fantastic! However, know that all of the tactics undertaken to identify, organize, and share knowledge and information are purely meant to support the bottom-line goal...if yours isn't, welllll, I'm not sayin' it's right and I'm not sayin' it's wrong, I'm just sayin' you might wanna look into that.

While everyone else is prepping for the end of the world in 2 years (and who can blame them in this economy?), KM (both the field and the people) is in a position to experience some exceptional growth. Here's to seeing what the coming year brings...and to scrounging up 500 pennies - just 'cause I lost my bet doesn't mean I have to be cool about it.